COLOMBIA: Open letter to the Prime Minister of Canada

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CPTnet
29 May 2013
COLOMBIA: Open letter to the Prime Minister of Canada

Dear Stephen Harper,

My name is Hannah Redekop. I am a 24-year-old Canadian citizen living and working in Colombia with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) as an international human rights observer, striving for justice and peace in a country torn by a 50-year civil war.

I want to tell you
about Las Pavas, a farming community in rural Colombia, about their
displacement over the past ten years and the violations of their rights that
continue to this day at the hands of palm oil company Aportes San Isidro. 
I want to tell you this because as Canada, now a “Free Trade” partner
with Colombia, imports millions of palm oil products, it perpetuates these crimes.

 
  Tito on his land
 
Tito’s farm house demolished by the palm company  

I want to tell you
about Don Efraín and his son Tito. These hard-working farmers are struggling to
survive on their land after the palm company’s security agency stole their
fences, knocked down their house, threatened their lives and even shot at them
while they carried out farm tasks and attempted to survive, living under a
couple of sticks with a garbage bag roof and a pot hung over coals, on supper consisting
of a boiled yucca or banana.

I want to tell you
about Rubiela, a 37-year-old mother of five living under ongoing threats from
the company against her and her family’s lives, and of rape towards her three
girls, aged fourteen, thirteen, and nine. Rubiela sends her husband off with
a boiled banana and a fried egg to work a 14-hour farming day under the equatorial
sun. After his hard work, Wladymir’s yucca crops were poisoned and
uprooted, his young banana trees chopped down.  Rubiela would help him in
the fields but fears leaving the house unattended in the shadow of the palm
company’s abuses.

I want to tell you
that I was there when the community, preparing to put a thatch roof on the new
ranch house, arrived to find the piles of palm branches burned in
gasoline.  I was there when they cut new branches and drove the load onto
their land, and the armed security men came and shot out the tractor’s tire.

I want to tell you how
the police showed up an hour later and ruled in favour of the palm company,
despite proof of their flagrant crimes.

I want to tell you all this, but
I think I would be wasting my time.

Because before you care about Colombians, you have to care about
Canada.  But apparently Canada isn’t all that important to you either, Mr.
Harper.

If you cared about
Canada, we wouldn’t be worrying about the environmental damage of tar sands or
the fact that you have shut down many institutions that protected our fresh
water bodies.

If you cared about Canada you
wouldn’t have preferred to welcome pandas to the Toronto Zoo instead of
welcoming the Nishiyuu youth who had walked 1600 km to Ottawa to bring
attention to the indigenous issues you refuse to recognize.

If you cared about
Canada, you wouldn’t be muzzling scientists, librarians and artists, censoring
alternative media and trying to control the CBC.

What is it you want,
not-so-honourable Mr. Stephen Harper?

If it’s money, just
take it and leave.  There’s already a scandal of $3.1 billion missing. 
We’re Canadians; we’ll forgive you if you take a little bit more.  But
just go.

Canada needs a leader
who cares about her people and those affected by her actions. Colombia needs
international leaders who care about corporate impunity at subsistence farmers’
expense.  I need a leader who cares.  So please leave.

 
  Don Efraín working in his rice field

Kindly,

Hannah Redekop,
Rubiela,
Don Efrain,
Tito
and the other Las Pavas community members

This letter has been edited for length. See original.

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